Soundtrack of a yesteryear: a Thanksgiving tribute

It must have been twenty years ago. At a November youth group meeting, we divided into little circles and said or prayed something we were thankful for.  

I looked down at my hands. One of them had scars on both sides from an accident that could have debilitated it, but did not.

"God," I said, "thank you that I can play the piano." And I teared up.  

All I had been doing was banging out chords and probably blessing no one but myself; but I loved it so much. It keenly felt like God's personalized gift to me.  

But a larger gift underlay it. At thirteen, I was newly sincere as a Christian. I had been on a trajectory of hatred, pride, selfishness, and other awful things. Then, God moved me to come clean about it all when I was twelve. I was still rough around the edges, but I felt like a new creature; and I was happy.  

I didn't expect then to experience years of spiritual depression, but that's what most of high school felt like. I went from being an ebullient believer to wondering if God was real and what difference did it make to believe in him. The harder I tried to reel myself in, the more distant from God I felt.  

Finally, I silently said, "God, if you are real, you're going to have to get me out of this. I can't, so I'm going to stop trying." It wasn't a rejection of belief, but complete relinquishment of effort to believe.  

I can't identify the stages of returning to confidence, but healing did slowly come. One day, when I was seventeen, my dad and I were on a bike ride talking about this and that when he said, "You seem to be doing well, honey."  

"Yeah," I said, realizing it for the first time. "I am doing well." And I teared up. 

I see now how much pride I had derived from my sense of spirituality. God wouldn't have it; he would do the saving, not me - and so my efforts to feel spiritual were futile. The mere fact that in time my faith became strong again is another way I know he is there. 

Mrs. Potter came to my high school graduation party and gave me Sara Groves's latest album, The Other Side of Something. I remember thinking it was bold to give music to a teenager you didn't know especially well. But that album had songs that I soon described as my life songs. "The One Thing I Know" describes my high school years: 

And the clouds just parted 

On a corner of my life 

And I can see for miles 

And the things I was stuck on 

Things I thought would never change 

They just broke open wide 

This is the one thing I know: 

You said you won't let me go 

And "Compelled" describes my whole life.  

What a relief it is to know 

I'm a slave to Christ 

Of all the masters I have known 

I'm compelled to live my life 

Free for you 

I'm on the other side of something 

I'm on the other side of something 

I have a new hope 

And it blows away the small hopes I knew before 

This Thanksgiving week, I thank you, Sara, for describing me. I thank you, Mrs. Potter, for the CD. Thank you, God, I can play the piano. Thank you that I still have a new hope. 


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